But recent posts on social media have left some Indigenous people wondering if a major retailer is trying to capitalize on the painful legacy of residential schools. In an Instagram post earlier this week, The Hudson’s Bay Co. said it sells orange shirts with the tagline “Every Child Matters.”
Dani Lanouette, who is Anishinaabe from Neyaashiinigmiing and the Algonquins of Barriere Lake, says she has blocked the retailer’s Twitter posts for years.
“But I saw a tweet … of a screenshot of the message, [and] I was like, “Oh man, I have to unblock them,” she said.
“Seeing a company that has a very colonial history – a history of colonial violence within so-called Canada – seeing that they were now selling orange shirts actually made me nauseous. It was so disgusting to me. “
A Hudson’s Bay spokesperson told CBC the company did not want to confuse the sale of the shirts, and said they were available for purchase in conjunction with the Orange Shirt. Society, a British Columbia-based non-profit organization that works to raise awareness of the effects of residential schools.
All proceeds from the sale of the orange shirts will go to the nonprofit organization “to support their work in commemorating the residential school experience, to witness and honor the healing journey of survivors and their families, and for the ongoing process of reconciliation, ”the spokesperson said in a statement sent to CBC on Saturday.
Role in colonization
The Hudson’s Bay Company is one of the oldest corporations in Canada and actually existed long before Canada even became a country in 1867. Prior to that, the company actually served as a de facto government in some parts. from North America.
“If we look at the area where the Hudson’s Bay Company kind of took over and set up all of their trading posts and everything, that’s native land,” said Lanouette, who was interested in it. history of the company in adolescence.
In 1868, much of the land owned by the company was sold to the Dominion of Canada under the Rupert’s Land Act, resulting in the accession of much of the Prairies, including Manitoba , in Canada.
The HBC spokesperson’s statement said the company “recognizes the role it played in colonizing Canada” and is proud to work with the Orange Shirt Society “as part of our commitment to the truth. and reconciliation ”.
But for Lanouette, the more recent history of the Bay is problematic.
“When you look at their history, even over the past 100 years, [Hudson’s Bay had a] role with the Inuit [and] the High Arctic resettlement program where families were taken from northern Quebec to Nunavut, ”she said.
In 1953 and 1955, a group of 87 Inuit were persuaded by the Canadian government to leave their homes in Quebec, with promises of better hunting and the possibility of returning in two years, promises that were broken.
“There was only one Hudson’s Bay trading post up there,” says Lanouette, “and they really did [played] a role in the famine of indigenous peoples and in food insecurity today. “
For her, the main issue with The Bay now selling orange shirts is the perception that the company is profiting from the experiences of Indigenous survivors who were forced to attend residential schools, many of whom suffered horrific abuse.
“I think they should actually just give repairs without needing to sell anything or… rely on consumers to donate that for them by buying a shirt,” Lanouette said.
She also wonders how the Bay represented the personal story of Phyllis Webstad, which inspired the Orange Shirt Day celebrations on September 30 that preceded the new National Day for Truth and Reconciliation.
In 1973, on Webstad’s first day at St. Joseph Mission Residential School in British Columbia, the six-year-old’s favorite orange shirt – given to her by her grandmother – was taken away upon her arrival at the l ‘school.
The orange shirt has since become a symbol of remembrance for those who were forced to attend residential schools.
In an Instagram story from HBC, the retailer said that Orange Shirt Day “arose out of the account of Phyllis losing her new orange shirt on her first day of school.”
It’s not fair, said Lanouette.
“In fact, it was stolen from him. “